Five-year case concludes with $5 million settlement
A Kansas court has settled the 2017 case in which a Witchita resident was shot dead by a police detective after officers responded to a fake “hostage situation” taking place at the man’s house — the result of a “swatting” incident perpetrated by Tyler Barriss and concerning Call of Duty players Shane Gaskill and Casey Viner.
On the evening of December 28, 2017, 28-year-old Andrew Finch was at the house owned by his mother when he noticed police lights flashing directly outside of the residence. Opening the door to investigate the commotion, Finch was shot dead moments later by police detective Justin Rapp. Tragically, Finch was not remotely connected to the incidents that had led the police to his front door that fateful night.
In reality, Los Angeles resident Tyler Barriss had sent the police to Finch’s residence, erroneously believing that it was the home of Shane Gaskill, an Ohio resident who had gotten into a fight with another player, Casey Viner, over a “$1.50 wager match” on Call of Duty: WWII. As the two players taunted each other online, Viner asked Barriss — a frequent hoax caller — to “swat” Gaskill’s house. Barriss then told Witchita police that there was a “hostage situation” taking place at an address obtained directly from Gaskill, who had openly challenged Barriss and Viner to “try some shit”.
The address provided by Gaskill was, however, his former address, which was now occupied by Finch’s mother. And thus, wrongfully believing an armed man was about to kill himself and his family, the police arrived at Finch’s home and took immediate, deadly response. Finch was unarmed when he opened his front door, and Rapp did not identify himself before opening fire on the father, who died at the scene.
In 2019, Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to a total of 51 federal charges related to swatting incidents, bomb threats, and other hoax calls. Casey Viner was jailed for 15 months for his involvement in the killing, while Shane Gaskill was put on a deferred prosecution, but would violate his terms and eventually be sentenced to 18 months in the fall of 2022 .
Following a period of relief from duty, officer Justin Rapp would testify in a federal court for the incident, admitting that he did not see a gun in Finch’s hands before opening fire. Rapp would ultimately face no charge, returning to active duty and even receiving a promotion in 2022. This week’s ruling sees Witchita County settle the case against Rapp for $5 million USD, which will be paid to Finch’s family.
“I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to the activists who fought for myself and my children for five long years,” said Tawny Unruh, the mother of Finch’s children, in comments made to The Witchita Eagle. “To the mayor and council who voted in favor of my children, thank you for making sure that my family can move on from this nightmare and begin to heal. We will never forget or understand why our Andy had to die but are grateful for all of the support we’ve received from our community.”